“Cheryl Kaye Tardif has once again captivated readers in her third novel and latest suspense thriller, The River . Set in the wilds of Canada 's north, The River combines intrigue, science, love and adventure and is sure to keep readers clamoring for more.” ― Edmonton Sun
Before you read Chapter 2 of The River I wanted to share with you some very interesting and intriguing coincidences that occurred recently. I noticed one day that I had a guestbook post from a woman and when I saw her name, there was an instant where I thought it was a joke. Her name is Del Hawthorne. And as some of you may know, that is the name of my main character in The River. So of course I had to message her back. She had stumbled across my thriller when she Googled her own name. :)
I thought that possibly her 'Del' was short for Delia or Delamina...or some other variation. What are the odds that it would be short for Delila? Well, it is. The only difference is she spells it Delilah. So as a joke I said, "Just don't tell me you live in Vancouver, BC. (Because that's where my fictitious Del lives at first) Well...Delilah lives in Vancouver, BC! In our email exchanges we found a variety of similarities between the real life Del and my Del. Coincidence?
There is no such thing as coincidence!
Read Chapter 1 first , then return here…
©2005 Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Early the next morning, Del entered UBC, greeted security and headed down the hall. At her classroom door, she juggled her briefcase and fumbled with the key.
She swiveled on one heel and was greeted by Phoebe Smythe, president of the university. Phoebe was a tall, attractive woman with hair the color of rich, dark chocolate―except for the pure white streak that sprouted from her widow’s peak.
“I just heard,” Phoebe said, tucking the streak behind one ear. “Is there anything I can do?”
“About what? The fact that a dear friend whom we all thought was dead has returned from the grave? Or that he’s adamant that my dad is alive?”
“Oh God! I heard about Arnold, but I didn’t know anything about your father. Are you all right?”
Del shrugged. “I will be. Once I talk to Professor Schroeder. Do you know where he is?”
“They took him to Riverview. He’s in rough shape, Del.”
“What did the doctors say?”
Phoebe patted her arm. “He has an unusual form of Progeria.”
“Accelerated aging? But Progeria is usually found in children.”
“It’s a mystery. That’s for sure.”
“Well, that certainly explains why I didn’t recognize him. But it still doesn’t make sense. Even with Progeria, he shouldn’t look as old as he does.”
“They’re bringing a specialist in, Del. Someone from downtown. I heard Progeria, Werner Syndrome…they really don’t know. But what they do know is that Arnold ’s mental capacity is irreparably diminished.”
“So you’re saying he could have made it up―about my dad?”
Phoebe slipped her a piece of memo paper. “Call the hospital. Tell them you’re family. Arnold ’s wife moved to London and his sons are both married and living in another province. You’re all he has.”
Alone in her classroom, Del called Riverview Hospital and made arrangements to see Schroeder just before four o’clock.
It was going to be a very long day.
“In review, anthropology seeks to understand the whole picture when it comes to the study of man―Homo sapiens,” Del told her summer class. “As an anthropologist, you will explore geographic space and evolutionary time so that you may understand human existence. Anthropology is a unique blend of folklore and commonplace science. It encompasses the evolution of language and the microscopic killer diseases that have wiped out entire civilizations.”
She glanced at the clock. “Time’s up.”
“Mr. Cavanaugh, are you okay about yesterday?” she asked Peter as he scurried past. “About the man who was in the classroom?”
“I heard he’s a friend of yours.”
“He…is a friend of my dad’s.”
Although he looks old enough to be my grandfather.
The young man shifted the laptop and books in his arms. “Is he gonna be alright?”
“I hope so.”
After Peter left, she peered out the window.
It was raining.
Vancouver―the city of rain.
To Del , it was perfect weather to dredge up the past. Perfect weather to revisit the dead. Or not so dead.
By the time she reached the outskirts of Riverview Hospital, an early summer storm had unleashed its fury on the entire Vancouver area, swamping the streets with water. She turned into the visitor’s parking lot, snatched a ticket from the dispenser and made her way to an empty stall. Dashing through the main doors of the hospital, she was caught off guard by the slippery floor. She slid across the tiled surface―straight into the arms of a very handsome stranger.
“Well, hello,” he said, rewarding her with a dazzling smile.
The man who held her was dressed in a casual suit. But he could have been wearing nothing at all as far as she was concerned. His dark brown hair was slicked back, except for an errant lock over one finely sculpted brow. The man’s face was angular, with a strong jaw and ridiculously high cheekbones. He sported a closely shaved moustache and goatee. Kind of a seven o’clock shadow look.
Regardless, Del liked it. Hell, what wasn’t there to like?
If he lets go, I’ll melt to the floor.
“Good thing I was here to catch you then.”
His voice was warm and inviting, like comfort food.
“Yeah, good thing,” she murmured.
“You don’t look sick.”
“I’m, uh, visiting a friend.”
Her mouth dropped. Oh my!
He released her and she was suddenly cold.
“Well, uh…thanks for, uh, catching me.”
She could have kicked herself. Could she possibly sound more dim-witted?
Deep blue eyes swept over her. “Anytime.”
Mesmerized, she stared as he walked away. Then she turned toward the elevator and made it inside before she caught sight of him again. He was standing at the receptionist’s cubicle. Before the elevator doors closed, before her raging hormones kicked into overdrive, the man turned and winked.
Cursing under her breath, she jabbed at the button for the third floor―the secured psychiatric wing. When she reached the main nurse’s station, she signed a form and was escorted through a set of locked doors.
The nurse placed a hand on her arm. “I’ll warn you, Miss Hawthorne, we had to sedate him. When he was admitted, he was hallucinating…and he’s in a lot of pain.”
Del forgot all about Mr. Tall, Dark and Oh-So-Sexy the instant she stepped inside Schroeder’s room―a room lit only by a small night-light glowing in the far corner. Someone had pulled the curtains partially open but it made no difference. Outside, the raging black sky held the sun at bay and unleashed its wrath.
Schroeder was lying in the bed, one wrinkled hand strapped to the rail while the other was swathed in thick cloth bandages. An IV ran from his hand to a bag of clear liquid suspended on a pole, and near the bed, a heart monitor beeped steadily.
Del watched the heart blips.
Schroeder was still alive.
He didn’t move.
Stepping closer, she stared in shock.
Arnold Schroeder’s face had severely aged. The skin under his chin hung in loose folds across his neck. Every inch of his spotted flesh was withered and scaly. His lips were cracked, peeling.
Yesterday, in her classroom, the man had looked about seventy.
Now he looked like he was nearing his nineties. Nearing death.
What could have happened to make him age so rapidly? Progeria?
Del reached forward and brushed the hair from Schroeder’s face. When she withdrew her hand, the hair went with it. Appalled, she shook the tuft into the garbage can next to the bed.
The man’s rheumy eyes opened slowly.
“You’re in the hospital,” she said, stroking his arm.
“I’m here, Professor.”
“Aw, isn’t it about time you called me Arnold?”
His question ended with a ragged coughing spell.
She picked up a glass of water that was sitting abandoned on a cafeteria tray. She brought the straw to his mouth and was shocked by the sight of his bloody gums and missing teeth.
After a few weak sips, he waved the glass away.
“Did you find it, Delly?”
“The journal? Yeah.”
“It’s all in there. Everything you need to know. Follow your heart. Find the key first. But, Delly…don’t tell anyone! If you tell the police that you know your father’s alive, you’ll both be in danger.”
He groaned as a spasm of pain wracked his body.
Del gripped his hand. “Do you want me to call a nurse?”
“No, it’s too late for me. It’s only a matter of time now. But you, Delly…you have to go, find the key.”
He coughed sharply, spewing up blood.
“Leave no stone unturned. Remember…that. Take care again―”
Suddenly, the heart monitor raced and an alarm pierced the air.
Del watched, helpless, as every muscle in Schroeder’s body convulsed. The veins in his forehead and scalp protruded, his eyes rolled back into their sockets and he let out a horrific scream of agony. Then he collapsed―silent, unmoving.
A tall Asian doctor rushed into the room. She was followed closely by two men pushing a crash cart.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave.”
Del ’s pulse raced as she stepped out into the hallway. She peered through the small window in the door while the doctor held the paddles over Schroeder’s bare chest. When his body arched in response to the electrical current, Del pulled away from the glass.
Depressed, she wandered into the small sitting area, with nothing to do but gaze at other visitors, their faces drawn in sorrow as they waited to hear news of a loved one. How she hated hospitals! She hated the smell of death and illness, the taste of decay. She abhorred the poking and prodding by doctors, nurses. And the endless tiresome tests.
Yeah, she and hospitals were intimately familiar.
She shook her head.
No time to dwell on that now. There was Schroeder to think about…and her father. Something terrible had happened to them, and she was determined to find out what.
The doctor exited the professor’s room and approached with an apologetic look on her face.
“You’re Arnold Schroeder’s family?”
Del remained silent.
“I’m Dr. Wang. He’s stabilized at the moment but I have to tell you, I think it’s only a matter of time.”
Exactly what Schroeder said.
“We have a specialist on his way. In fact, he arrived about thirty minutes ago.”
Del was shocked. What’s taking him so long?
Dr. Wang suddenly smiled. “There he is now. Excuse me.”
Standing at the counter, the specialist turned his head and Del recognized him immediately.
The man from the hospital lobby.
Dr. Wang greeted him. They exchanged a few words and the doctor shook her head. Minutes later, they disappeared into Schroeder’s room.
Del ’s shock quickly turned to anger.
Mr. Tall, Dark, Oh-So-Sexy and Selfish had certainly taken his sweet old time. He should have been checking on Schroeder, not flirting with her.
She left the hospital feeling pissed off and disappointed.
At the handsome specialist…and herself.
An hour later, she was sitting in her living room with Lisa.
Lisa Shaw had been her best friend since high school. They were like sisters, although Lisa was the complete opposite of her in almost every way. Six inches shorter than Del ’s five-foot-nine frame, Lisa was a brunette with a figure made for modeling. Her eyes were hazel in comparison to Del ’s pale blue.
"So exactly how cute was this guy?” Lisa asked between mouthfuls of pizza. “I mean, was he Orlando Bloom cute or Harrison Ford cute?”
“More like Johnny Depp cute.”
“Well, he thinks he is.”
Lisa threw her a knowing look. “You think he’s a God too, Delila Bea Hawthorne. I know it.”
Del felt the heat rising in her face. “Shut up and eat your pizza.”
“So, you gonna show me this book?”
Del grabbed the journal and set it on the table.
Lisa opened it carefully. “What’s with all these numbers?”
One line read 233253 = 3132218142! And one number was repeated throughout the book. 233253.
“I have no idea.”
Lisa scowled. “He’s not much of an artist.”
“Just because you studied under David C. Miller doesn’t mean everyone had that honor.”
Miller was an internationally acclaimed marine artist from the United States , and he had taken Lisa under his wing. In two weeks, Lisa’s newest collection of giclee canvases would be shown at Imagine―one of the most prestigious art galleries in Canada . There was already a buzz amongst the media, and some influential people planned to attend. Even Miller and his wife would be there for the big reveal.
“This looks like a tree, Del. With two main branches. See? And this N shows that he was looking north through the trees.”
"How the hell am I supposed to find my dad with this?”
“The professor said everything was in this book, right? Well then, you’ll figure it out. When are you leaving?”
Del ’s shoulders slumped. “I’m not sure. I have to make flight arrangements, but I can’t even do that until I find some people to come with me.”
“You know I’d go…if I didn’t have this―”
“I completely understand, Lis. I’ll find someone to help me bring my dad back. You just make sure your show is a smashing success.”
“What about TJ?” Lisa asked hesitantly.
Del arched a brow. “What about him?”
“You know he’d do anything for you. Plus he’s an expert rafter.”
“Yeah, and an expert liar.”
“Have you seen Julie lately? She’s an elephant.”
Lisa mimed a huge pregnant belly, then noticed Del ’s expression.
“Oh, crap, Del. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. TJ made his bed―well, mine actually―and he doesn’t seem to mind lying in it. I hope he’s happy with her. And the kid. He always said he wanted a large family.”
She closed the journal, signaling the end of the conversation.
“Do you want butter or cheese popcorn, my friend?”
Lisa gave her a wide-eyed innocent look. “Why not both?”
If there was one true gift that her friend had, it was the ability to make her laugh.
“Comic relief. That’s what you’re here for, Lis.”
They watched two Jackie Chan movies back-to-back, pigged out on popcorn and finished off two six-packs of beer. Then Lisa passed out on the couch, snoring softly and fighting for space with Kayber.
When Del crawled into bed, she wasn’t feeling any pain either.
A million thoughts raced through her mind when she awoke.
How could she possibly convince anyone to join her on a crazy trek down the Nahanni River ? People would think she was nuts if she told them she was searching for her presumed-dead father. And who in their right mind would go with her, knowing that she had no idea where her father might be and no proof that he was actually alive?
Maybe I should ask TJ to go with me.
Frustrated, she whipped the blankets aside and listened for the familiar clanging of pots and pans that always followed one of Lisa’s sleepovers.
There were no sounds of life from the kitchen.
Del ’s stomach growled rebelliously.
Groaning with hunger, she clambered out of bed. She threw on an old blue robe, stuffed her feet into Tweety slippers and plodded into the hallway.
“Hey, Lisa!” she hollered, raking her fingers through unruly, short blond curls. “Is breakfast ready?”
No one answered.
She reached the kitchen, expecting the aroma of bacon and coffee to assault her senses.
What she got was a note stuck to the fridge door.
Mrs. Johnny Depp,
I left you some herbal tea. It has some kind of root bark from Africa in it. Supposed to give you energy, ward off the effects of alcohol. J
Love Lisa. XO
P.S. I called TJ. He said of course he’ll go.
“Traitor!” Del muttered.
She looked around the empty, foodless kitchen and spotted Kayber pacing by the door. She threw him a disgruntled look.
“The least she could have done was make us breakfast.”
Lisa’s tea sat on the counter, in an unmarked bag.
Sniffing the contents suspiciously, Del prayed that her house wouldn’t be the target of a drug raid.
“Whatever’s in here probably isn’t tea.”
It probably isn’t legal either.
She made herself a cup, just to be sure.
Afterward, she headed for Bio-Tec.
©2005 Cheryl Kaye Tardif
You can order The River from Amazon.com, Chapters.ca or other online retailers, or ask for it at your favorite bookstore.
~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention
(Please note: there may be some minor spacing or punctuation errors while pasting this chapter into this site. They do not appear in the printed text of the novel. CKT)